The Ambassador in Cuba (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

No. 394

Sir: As the time for the resumption of negotiations for a new commercial treaty between Cuba and the United States is approaching with the recognition of the Cuban Government,19 I have the honor to point out that the question of where these negotiations will take place is one of importance. In this connection, at my request, the Commercial Attaché has prepared a memorandum outlining various substantial reasons why the actual negotiations should continue to be held in Habana rather than in Washington. A copy of this memorandum is transmitted herewith. I desire to state that I concur with the statements contained therein. While, of course, the legal drafting of the final text of the treaty can obviously be handled more satisfactorily in the Department, the detailed negotiations should, in my opinion, continue to be held in Habana.

Respectfully yours,

Jefferson Caffery

Memorandum Prepared in the Office of the Commercial Attaché

Subject: Revision of the Reciprocity Treaty.

It is our feeling that the proposed revision of the treaty of commercial reciprocity between the United States and Cuba should be negotiated in Habana rather than in Washington; it being understood, however, that the Department of State will be kept informed of developments and that the general provisions will be prepared in the Department of State with the cooperation of the Embassy.

Should negotiations be conducted in Washington, it would be necessary to transfer to the Department of State the vast amount of material available in the Embassy. This includes useful reports based upon conferences with persons engaged in import and export trade, industry and agriculture, letters, special studies, reference books and charts. Moreover, the Cubans would be required to do likewise. So as to [Page 109] insure practical revision of the treaty, it would be essential to send to Washington the four members of the staff in the office of the Commercial Attaché who have specialized in this work, all at considerable expense and impairment of efficient functioning of the Embassy.

The office of the Commercial Attaché of the Embassy has prepared considerable information on the subject, most of which was used as the basis for preliminary discussions with officials of the Cuban government at the meetings which took place last year. Since then, additional data have been compiled, and new ideas have been formulated. This material has guided the sub-committee of the Inter-Departmental Committee in Washington in its study of the proposed revision of the treaty. The findings of the sub-committee are useful, but we do not believe that a duplication of effort would be justified during the actual negotiations. We do feel, however, that the experience of experts on the Inter-Departmental Committee in Washington is such as to more than justify the preparation of the general provisions there, after an exchange of ideas with the Embassy.

It is obvious that the [sic] during the negotiations, many problems will arise which will make it necessary for our negotiators to discuss with reliable commercial contacts. This would be very difficult in Washington, but would be relatively simple in Habana in view of the fact that the office of the Commercial Attaché is in touch with practically all the important business men in this country, whether Cubans or foreigners. It is within the realm of possibility that in the course of negotiations price changes, new competition or other disturbing factors may arise, and that there might be some delay in bringing them to the attention of our negotiators in Washington; while in Habana they would be known to our negotiators at once.

While it would be possible for the Embassy to elaborate on the reports on domestic industries, which have been submitted to Washington, from time to time, it is obvious that the negotiators should be men who are thoroughly familiar with conditions of the country. The members of the staff who would be delegated to negotiate the commercial treaty have a full knowledge of conditions in Cuba, and are well qualified to distinguish between natural and artificial industries and the amount of tariff protection which they should enjoy.

It would be more advantageous and economical for the Cuban government to negotiate the commercial treaty in Habana. The latter is very important, in view of the depressed financial condition of the government. Moreover, as the basic data are available here, actual negotiation of the commercial treaty would be expedited.

The staff of the Commercial Attaché has been kept intact in anticipation of the revision of the commercial treaty in Habana. Two members of the staff, who received their notification of separation [Page 110] from the service last year, have been retained for the express purpose of assisting in revision of the treaty. We believe that their participation in the meetings with the representatives of the Cuban government will be extremely valuable and practical.

In brief, we are confident that if the negotiation [is?] carried on in Habana, that revision of the treaty would be expedited and that it would be more economical and practical for Cuba and the United States.

  1. See pp. 93 ff.